KALRO is advising strawberry farmers who are keen to achieve 100 per cent germination rate and healthy growing plants to buy runners rather than splits for planting, and preferably from certified nurseries
This comes at a time when most farmers launching into strawberry growing are suffering harvest losses by beginning with splits.
‘’We have realised that most farmers, other than buying their seedling from unauthorised dealers, will always go for the splits as a method of planting strawberries because they are fast in growth, sold at a lower price and are always readily available, while ignoring runners, which germinate well and have vigorous growth,’’ said Antony Nyaga, KALRO – PTC Thika.‘’We have realised that most farmers, other than buying their seedling from unauthorised dealers, will always go for the splits as a method of planting strawberries because they are fast in growth, sold at a lower price and are always readily available, while ignoring runners, which germinate well and have vigorous growth,’’ said Antony Nyaga, KALRO – PTC Thika.
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He says that part from complete germination, runners from certified nurseries also develop new runners from the main plant within three weeks to one month which can also be used to increase farm size.
Runners are generated by existing strawberry plants as very long stems that spread and then root to form new plants: they are nature’s way of the plant spreading. By contrast, splits are when an strawberry plant is lifted from the soil and broken into parts. Strawberries can be grown from splits, but the process is much more risky and tends to produce weaker plants.
Susan Mwangi, a farmer from Kiserian in Kajiado County is one the farmers who due to lack of proper information started her venture with strawberry splits which she bought at around Sh2 each but a good number of them died with only a few surviving.
“Those that survived still had stunted growth three weeks to one month later and when I asked those who sold the splits to me, I was told that their death and poor growth of those that survived was because I planted them the wrong way and I had not watered them well,” said Susan adding that she had to seek help elsewhere start everything afresh.
Today, after adopting runners, her production ranges from 20-30 kilos per week. He sells a kilo at Sh150 while a punnet goes at Sh235 each translating to about Sh4,500 per week.
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She says most of her customers are individuals from Karen and traders from Nairobi who place orders for deliveries.
Certified dealers’ say
Robert Gitau, a licensed government seedlings propagator and a strawberry breeder certified by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), runs Rogita Plants Care, and notes that most farmers get it wrong from the outset by buying fake, cheaper strawberry seedlings.
“Seedlings are a big issue because everyone is now propagating and selling them. It, therefore, becomes a big challenge identifying genuine from fake ones,” says Gitau, who adds there are 37 strawberry varieties grown locally.
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According to him, a genuine strawberry seedling goes for at least Sh30 but several propagators are selling for as low as Sh3.
“Most unlicensed propagators lure farmers with their low prices but in the end, it becomes expensive when the crop fails or one ends up with poor yields,” he said.
He says, strawberries do not need a lot of water but instead they require a constant supply whereby a farmer should water the crops daily in the evenings during the first month and twice daily in the second month.
Benson Maina is the CEO of Jaick Agricultural Produce (JAP) Company, which specialises in horticultural farming and export and contracts farmers to grow the fruit of love. He says a single well-planted and maintained strawberry runner can grow into a plant that yields a kilo of strawberry fruits per year.
On a quarter acre, a farmer can grow 6,000 plants, each producing a kilo per year.
Information from the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS) states that strawberry runners exhibit vigorous growth traits and produce very desirable fruits that are very large and firm within 60 -75 days.
Interested growers can visit JAP offices at Mountain Mall along Thika Road opposite Garden City, Nairobi, 3rd floor room D24 Or on 0723146885/0720977426 Email, email@example.com while Robert Gitau on +254723701237